Julia Stiles had some really lovely things to say about working with Heath Ledger
People spend their weekends doing all sorts of things. We spend ours by ordering in and rewatching ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ for the millionth time. They don’t call it a classic for nothing, you know!?
I think we can all agree on one thing: 10 Things I Hate About You is one of the greatest 90s rom coms ever made. Any movie that has an extravagant musical number was always going to get a big thumbs up from me personally, but the film is more than just fluff and actually, Kat Stratford is the feminist role model this particular genre needs, but so often lacks.
Beloved by generations of movie watchers, people rate it for all different reasons, though it’s the chemistry between Patrick Verona (played by Heath Ledger) and Kat (played by Julia Stiles) that usually wins most over.
One, an antisocial sceptic with strong feminist ideals, the other a rebel without a cause – you probably would never have put their characters together, but somehow, the pairing just really works. Why? Because the two actors actually had a really great time working together. Reflecting on what it was like to star opposite Heath, Stiles had some pretty lovely things to say about her costar.
Remembering him as being one of the most gracious people she’s had the pleasure to work with, Stiles told the People in the ‘90s podcast that Heath was definitely one of the special ones.
Take the movie’s famous poetry scene, for example. Probably the most emotionally charged scene in the whole film, the whole thing came to be very organically when Stiles just spontaneously started crying. Admitting that her response was “not intentional” in a previous interview with Cosmopolitan, the actress said that she “never expected” that she was going to start crying. “I don’t know why I did, whether it connected to something going on at the time, or if I was just overwhelmed by the whole experience of making my first big movie.”
Later speaking about that particular experience once again, the New York native recalled how Ledger was just happy to let her have her moment. He never tried to take the focus off her or counteract with an equally emotive response, he simply followed her lead. “I remember Heath Ledger was so gracious about the whole thing. I appreciate this so much more now having worked more,” she told podcast co-hosts Jason Sheeler and Andrea Lavinthal of the memory.
Understanding that letting others shine was mutually beneficial to him and the movie as a whole, Stiles noted that he “wasn’t trying to compete” for screen time. “He stood back and he was like, this is your scene,” she continued. “When they did his reaction shot, he didn’t well up. He didn’t go, ‘Ok, now I have to do something with my side of the camera’. He was just like, ‘That was beautiful and this is your scene.’”
Of course, Ledger’s character had his own magic moments in the movie too. That musical number, hello? “You know, he had his amazing moments in the movie too – the singing and dancing and running up and down those steps. But he was confident enough, even just starting out, to be like, ‘I’m handing over the stage to you.’ And I learned way later in life that that doesn’t always happen.”
Once describing the movie as her “big break” to NME, Stiles said that the poetry scene was “emblematic” of how she felt all throughout filming. “We were all really present and it was just so uninhibited. None of the actors felt jaded or shut down [on set]. We were all having a great time.” Crediting 10 Things I Hate About You as being the launchpad for her career, Stiles said that she has a lot to thank Kat for. “I have since generally been given roles where the character has a lot of strength. I think that started with Kat.”
However, while fans were rooting for Kat and Patrick, it turns out that Stiles actually had her eye on someone else and allegedly dated Joseph Gordon-Levitt while filming. Who knew?!
Letting the little-known secret out of the bag in an interview with Mirá a Quién Encontré, director Gil Junger confirmed that, “She [Julia], for a minute or 10, went out with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. They were very, very attracted to each other, which was cool… Watching them, it was beautiful how much they enjoyed each other.
“She’s professing her love to Heath and she’s in love with a guy waiting in his trailer to shoot the next scene,” he joked. In fact, Julia supposedly told Gil that she was thinking of Joseph even when doing that poetry scene! “That was one of the [most] magical performances that I’ve recorded in my lifetime,” he added.
That movie never fails to break my heart.